Olivia Newton-John’s life story is so much about strength and endurance, that it makes most other famous people’s problems look like a baby’s tantrum session.
Think Kurt Cobain’s heroin habit, George Michael’s driving malfunctions or Boy George’s episode with imprisoning a male escort, to name a few.
All this behaviour seems to come from a basic insecurity, which, when you think of it, pales in comparison to the life-threatening disease and the other hardships that someone like Newton-John had to endure.
The ugly “twist of fate” first happened in her life in 1992, when the English lass was stricken with breast cancer. That wasn’t all - a year later, she split from husband Matt Lattanzi and more was to come.
Tragedy struck again in 2005 when her then-boyfriend of nine years, Patrick McDermott, disappeared after an overnight fishing trip (he has since, reportedly, reappeared). Oh yes, her daughter, Chloe, also battled anorexia.
This is enough to send anyone else around the bend but the 63-year-old Newton-John has taken it all in her stride and beat cancer, too.
She is now married to entrepreneur John Easterling, still tours and even describes her breast cancer episode as a gift.
“I wouldn’t be doing cancer and wellness, and health treatments if I hadn’t been through that experience. I reached a space of hope and healing through it,” she said on the phone from her home in Florida, to promote her upcoming show here.
After beating cancer, she formed the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Centre, to provide treatment for the deadly disease. Her charity work didn’t stop there, either.
She also is an ambassador to the United Nations Environmental Program, spokesman for the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition and is involved with the Red Cross, rainforest conservation efforts and others.
Newton-John has since been in a very peaceful place, psychologically, as her Grace And Gratitude album first revealed in 1997.
She explained her outlook on life that got her through the trying times.
“I’ve always had two feet on the ground. Besides music, I’ve always had other interests ... such as animals. I love animals. At one time, I had nine dogs, seven cats and five horses. Things like drugs were always around me, but it just didn’t interest me,” said the evergreen singer.
“Life is a gift and it is meant to be lived. We have to be grateful for the little things. For example, we have food on the table and not many people do,” she philosophised, leading up to her concert at Genting’s Arena Of Stars.
She first achieved pop success in the 70s and 80s with hits like Let Me Be There, I Honestly Love You, You’re The One That I Want (from the hit movie Grease) and Physical.
Over the phone, she laughed heartily, spoke about taking her dog for a drive in the car and waxed lyrical about “the power of now.”
The Australian-raised Newton-John may have had decades of recording history but claims that although she enjoys nostalgia, she doesn’t live it. “I live in the moment. That’s all we have,” she says.
So, with all that zen in her life, does Newton-John ever ... ever, get angry? “Yes!” she affirmed with a laugh. “I get angry when I see any harm that comes to animals or any kind of cruelty,” she revealed. Still, anger seems to be a small part of Newton-John’s world, as her happiness and success are enviable.
Recently, Newton-John was voted one of Australia’s National Living Treasures, along with Kylie Minogue and a few others.
“It’s a fantastic feeling! It’s better than being buried treasure!,” joked the four-time Grammy winner.
She’s also feeling good about performing her second Malaysian show (she first performed here in 2007). Newton-John explained that the show is going to be a journey through her music over the past few years. “From the early 70s stuff to the Grease stuff to Physical to my breast-cancer phase and my healing music. It’s all there,” she says.
And no, at the ripe age of 63, she won’t be singing The Beatles’ When I’m 64, either. “I’m not quite there yet,” she laughed.
Besides recording and touring, she recently acted as a coke-snorting mother of the bride in the Australian comedy film A Few Best Men. “That was fun. The director was an old friend of mine. He sent me the film script and I couldn’t stop laughing when I read it, so I told him I wanted to be in it. It’s not a big part but I’m in it,” she offered.
In addition to her big screen appearance, the singer also appeared as a guest on the hit TV show Glee, doing a version of Physical last year (2011), which introduced her to a whole new generation of music fans.
“It was a lot of fun, too. I must confess, I didn’t know about the show until then.”
Besides the talented performers on Glee, the Grease star also appreciates contemporary artistes like Beyonce, Jennifer Hudson and Rihanna, but chooses to listen to soothing instrumental music at home.
And when did she last speak to her Grease co-star John Travolta? “About a month ago. We’re working on a project together,” she shared. We asked if she’d care to elaborate but she politely declined. “Nope! But it’s not about Grease!” she replied.